When should I take my child to the dentist for the first check-up?

It is recommended for a child to see the pediatric dentist on or before their first birthday or six months after the first tooth appears, whichever is first in order to prevent any problems.

What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and other dentists?

A pediatric dentist has an additional two to three years of specialty training after dental school and is highly trained in treating children in infancy through the teenage years and special needs patients.

What should I use to clean my baby’s teeth?

A soft bristled toothbrush, preferably one that has a small head and is specifically designed for infants, is recommended twice daily.   The toothbrush will remove plaque bacteria which can lead to tooth decay.  Before your child gets teeth you should use wet gauze or a wet wash cloth to wipe the gums after feeding.

Why are baby teeth important?

Primary or “baby” teeth are important for several reasons. First, they are important for chewing, speaking and appearance. They are also important for holding the space for the developing permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position when it is time for them to erupt. Your child’s general health is affected by the oral health of the teeth and gums.

At what age should I start using toothpaste to brush my child’s teeth?

With the recent increase in the decay rate among American children the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a fluoride containing toothpaste be used once the first tooth appears.  A ‘smear’, no larger tha a grain of rice, should be used twice a day.  Make sure you are only using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste in children aged 2-5. Encourage your child to spit and not to swallow the excess toothpaste after brushing to avoid getting too much fluoride.

What happens at the first appointment?

The first visit is usually very simple. We are focusing on getting to know your child and giving you some basic information about dental care. If possible, we will clean your child’s teeth. The pediatric dentist will examine your child’s teeth and gums and determine if there are any problems or concerns.

If your child has a lot of anxiety on their first visit we may turn it into a “happy visit” where they would just tour the office and meet the dental team in the hopes that we can get them acquainted and reduce anxiety.

Should I be worried about pacifier and thumb sucking habits?

Thumb and pacifier habits generally only cause a problem if they go on for a long period of time. Most children are able to stop the habit on their own, but If your child still has a habit when the permanent teeth erupt, then it may be necessary to make a mouth appliance to help them stop the habit.

What causes cavities?

We all have bacteria that live in our mouths. When certain types of bacteria come in contact with the sugary foods in our diet an acid is produced. The acid attacks the enamel layer of our teeth and causes demineralization of the enamel which eventually leads to little holes in the teeth, called cavities.

How can I help my child prevent cavities?

First, make sure you never put your child to bed with milk, formula, juice, sugar water  or anything other than plain water.  This can lead to early cavities on baby teeth.  If the child is nursing at night make sure that you wipe their mouth out with wet gauze or wash cloth after feeding.  Never let them fall asleep nursing without wiping their mouth.

Also, if the primary care giver has untreated decay, the cavity causing bacteria can be transferred to the child at an early age and lead to early cavities.  Thus, try not to share utensils, cups, etc. with children if there is untreated decay.

Make sure your child is brushing at least twice per day with fluoride toothpaste. Your child may need your help brushing until he/she is around 7-8 years of age. Flossing is also important because it cleans the area between the teeth that the toothbrush can’t reach. Avoid sugary drinks and foods, limit frequent snacking between meals, and maintain a healthy diet. Make sure to keep regular appointments with your pediatric dentist.

Does my child need dental sealants?

Sealants are applied to the chewing surfaces (pits and fissures) of the molar teeth. This is the most common site for cavities to form. The sealants help to seal the hard to clean areas of the back teeth off to avoid plaque, bacteria, and food from trapping there. The application is fast and comfortable and can protect the teeth for many years.  However, not all teeth need sealants.  Dr. Mathews will evaluate the molars to see if they would be beneficial for your child.

My child plays sports. Do I need a mouth guard?

When a child begins to participate in organized sports mouth injuries can occur. A properly fitted mouth guard is important in helping protect your child’s teeth and smile and should be used when engaging in any activity where there could be trauma to the face or mouth. Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitted mouth guard will stay in place while your child is wearing it. Ask your pediatric dentist about custom and store-bought mouth protectors.